Digital Data Under the Tuscan Sun

I’m fortunate to be taking a holiday this year, currently in the Italian countryside. As carefree as a bike ride among Tuscan sunflowers — there’s a specter threatening to haunt us from Europe, as Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO Randall Rothenberg reported recently in Business Insider.

I’m fortunate to be taking a holiday this year, currently in the Italian countryside.

As carefree as a bike ride among Tuscan sunflowers — there’s a specter threatening to haunt us from Europe, as Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO Randall Rothenberg reported recently in Business Insider: “Buried in pages of amendments to the European Union’s latest privacy proposal, the ePrivacy Regulation, members of the European Parliament recently recommended language that would strip European publishers of the right to monetize their content through advertising, eviscerating the basic business model that has supported journalism for more than 200 years. The new directive would require publishers to grant everyone access to their digital sites, even to users who block their ads, effectively creating a shoplifting entitlement for consumers of news, social media, email services, or entertainment.”

Juxtapose this nightmare scenario with what consumers are coming to expect from their online experiences — greater context and more relevant experiences — and you can see the “Great Disconnect” between digital data, consumer experience and at least some European policymakers. Says Flashtalking CEO John Nardone recently on another topic in Marketing Land: “Advertising that is not data-inspired, data-enabled, personally relevant and relevant across time and context is increasingly advertising wasted.” Another study by the Digital Advertising Alliance (disclosure, a client, but also not a lobbying organization) says that U.S. consumers, at least, place a $1,197 dividend on the free content they consume on desktop and mobile environments.

Yes, the American marketplace is not Europe, but we should be very concerned about western democracies — among anyone — taking a position that effectively de-finances journalism, diminishes and disempowers a consumer marketplace, gives a free pass to ad blockers (normalizing the thieving of content, in effect encouraging it), and other behaviors that are anti-commerce. How much are Europeans willing to sacrifice in the name of privacy? Their own economic well-being to start — publishers, advertisers and, yes, consumers.

In that Europe demands that other countries meet its privacy expectations in order to allow data flows on European Union citizens outside European borders, you can see the intended, amplified effects that the EU is seeking to set in motion. One target may well be USA and ad tech companies.

I’ve long said we can’t take Information out of the Information Economy and still have the efficiency, productivity and consumer discovery made possible by data-driven marketing. Let’s hope reason prevails both in Brussels — and under the Tuscan sun.

Please: No Trade War on Information

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the International Association of Privacy Professionals Global Privacy Summit in Washington, DC. I was there touting self-regulation in the digital advertising field. Booth after booth and many panels, however, were talking about something else: the European Union’s forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its cousin, ePrivacy Regulation — and how American and global businesses may deal with both. GDPR takes enforcement effect on May 25, 2018.

The opinions expressed in this post — as always — are my own.

Little Data Business ConceptEarlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the International Association of Privacy Professionals Global Privacy Summit in Washington, DC. I was there touting self-regulation in the digital advertising field.

Booth after booth and many panels, however, were talking about something else: the European Union’s forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its cousin, ePrivacy Regulation — and how American and global businesses may deal with both. GDPR takes enforcement effect on May 25, 2018.

While all the promulgations for GDPR are yet to be revealed, the potential impact is that the EU will place a lockbox on personal information of European citizens (both consumers and business individuals), even those data elements that are as benign and beneficial as advertising and marketing related information. Only affirmative consent from the consumer will make such data available for constructive outcomes as marketing analysis and tailored advertising. Whether or not a company is based in Europe, United States or elsewhere — if it touches EU citizen data, it must conform to the regulation — or face fines as much as 4 percent of global turnover — or €20 Million, whichever is greater. IAB Europe has posted a helpful primer.

Will the first cases under this regulation be brought against Europe-based companies? We shall see.

Many Americans fear something else. It will be used to go after American-based companies — particularly global innovators in data and information that use consumer data for productive use, with great success. Data-driven marketing economies offer superb dividends: consumers get more relevant content, greater choices and greater diversity of content — as well as entrepreneurial businesses that seek to innovate even further. The decision this past week under EU competition law regarding Google only advances the case of perceived anti-American bias in EU “digital” law enforcement. (Without arguing merits or criticisms of the decision — last I heard, no one in Europe is forced to use Google for his or her online searches or shopping.)

Then there’s the debate about consent in GDPR. The tired “opt-in versus opt-out” debate has reared its ugly head, as the EU marketplace implements affirmative consent mandates. We all know opt-in requirements tend to kill consumer discovery, and hurt, particularly, small business.

Like EU’s cookie law, Europeans may well see a plethora of new sets of notices asking consumers whether or not they really want to visit a site, use an app and so on — anywhere personal data, including browsing history and app usage, is intended to be collected and used for marketing purposes. There are myriad other GDPR requirements — data protection impact assessments, data protection officer designees, the right to data access, the right to be forgotten, the right to data breach notification — which marketing organizations will need to navigate.

And what might the global effect be as nation after nation seeks to establish “reciprocity” with more stringent EU law? In the post-Snowden era (how post-Snowden are we?) there are plenty who want to turn off American data collectors, as if the U.S. private sector has anything to do with U.S. government surveillance. They are not the same thing, and should never be.

If the goal of the EU is to protect the European consumer — by striking fear in Silicon Valley and American business through fines, litigation and the like — then it may go over very well with European audiences. Kudos, point made. Then there’s our side of the ocean. Despite all the bluster of “America First,” the truth is that we’re a global economy and there’s no turning back. And, no one will win if there’s a trade war — especially one over data flows that fuel economic growth.